You don't have to tell second-year Weston girls basketball coach Pat Cole what a difference a year makes. He's well aware after the Lady Trojans defeated the Oxford Wolverines 61-43 on the road on Saturday afternoon to officially reserve a spot in the Class M state tournament with its eighth victory.

During Cole's first campaign, Weston (8-4, 4-3 in the SWC) had to scrape and claw its way into the tournament by reaching win No. 8 on Feb. 13 and finished the season at 8-13.

"It had been awhile since the program had seen states, so last year was certainly a getting-to-know-you year with me and the kids and learning a new system," Cole said. "We got what we needed and sort of lost steam. Hopefully this year is a different story."

Senior captain forward Brittany Swanson started writing that new chapter by posting a season-high 26 points, 10 of which came in the third quarter to match Oxford's output in the quarter.

Going into halftime, the Wolverines (4-8, 0-7) liked their chances of earning their first conference victory as the Lady Trojans only had a 29-26 edge. Using a consistent zone defense, Oxford coaxed Weston into hoisting 15 3-point shots in the first half. The Lady Trojans connected on four of them, while the rest often fell into the awaiting hands of the bigger Oxford defenders, who were able to have their way on the glass.

Weston, though, came out in the third quarter determined to thin the walls of the Oxford zone by spreading out its attack through a series of spot-on passes that allowed Swanson to slash to the basket and find success inside the arc.

"I think it's just ball movement. We decided that we really needed to work on cutting and passing the ball around, so I just saw an opening," Swanson said.

On top of that, the Lady Trojans started putting a body on any Oxford player who entered the paint, an effort lead by sophomore forward Ellie Martin and her game-high 17 rebounds to go along with her 14 points and three steals.

"The big things we talked about at half time were certainly not relying too much on the outside shot; just to get better ball movement to inside players -- Brittany included -- and we had to recommit ourselves to boxing out," Cole said.

"We had to step it up in the second half because our rebounding and our boxing out was awful in the first half and that's why I think the game was so close: They got a lot of second shots," Swanson added.

Oxford forward Jackie Morrissey spearheaded the opportunistic offense down low with 14 points, while Jordyn Tolomeo led the hosts with 19 points, including five 3-pointers. Wolverine forward Katie Biagioni accounted for 15 of her team's 30 rebounds.

Weston junior Hannah Hutchins made three 3-point shots on her way to 12 points. The Lady Trojans were also helped out by junior Christina Welsh's five points, while senior captain Jessica Welsh and junior Dakota Sloop added two points each.

Now with the first goal in the books, Weston looks to work on its to-do list (qualify for the SWC playoffs, improve its seeding in state tournament). The Lady Trojans hosted Masuk yesterday after press time and hosts Bethel on Friday at 5:15 p.m.